tv Tavis Smiley PBS July 6, 2011 12:00am-12:30am PDT
tavis: tonight, a conversation with the bay area talk-show host. he is the program most listened to, and if you are unfamiliar with his work, tonight you will find out why. he has a provocative new text. coming up to join us, right now. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference -- >> thank you. >> you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment, one conversation at a time.
>> nationwide is on your side >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncicap.org-- tavis: if you spend any time in the bay area, you know the fine work of michael. he is the host of the award winning public radio program. the nation's must listen to locally produced radio talk show. he is also the professor of english and author of the emhart -- a poerful new -- powerful new text. >> it is a pleasure and delight
to be here. tavis: when i started going through the book, i knew i wanted to talk to you. i am curious to get inside the heads of those that are either economic or atheist because i want to understand their own process and their own journey. spiritual n.v., who knew they you envy me for being a believer, for being a spiritual being. what is there to envy? >> if you have faith, you have something very dear and worthy of cherishing because it can be worthy of consolation, i hope and people that don't have faith can't have that. it can give you morality and demeaning. i think the faith provides particular solace that you can't get without it. >> if there is virtual n.v., why
not become a believer? >> i have not been able to make that leap. it is about losing faith. it was also losing the essence of my childhood. i believe in god was seeing to it things were going a certain way. and i write about some things that went bad. to lose that is to lose something that is very precious and when i started writing this macabre i was looking to regain that and refining that. there is a real split between those two. in a cerebral sense, i cannot get to the elite of faith. in my heart there was a longing that was never really satisfied. tavis: i am sure that these persons exist in the world, but
in my 20 years of his business, i have not yet met anyone who started out that way. there is a process. there is a journey. and somewhere along that, and causes them to doubt. the mostly started out as a believer of some sort. hughes said that about what happened in your life. gosh i have written in this book, people started out atheist or agnostic. some of them have got in the faith. i think a lot of people lose faith the because there is an all knowing and all-powerful god that is all good and they can't reconcile that at a certain time are very people like i did, people that have an
affect on your intellect. people lose faith because their prayers aren't answered or because they have to deal with death or tragedy and the have to deal with, where was god? when people who get leukemia, an evil things happen, katrina or a tsunami. for the holocaust. why wasn't got looking over this? and most say, you can't divide the divine. you can't understand what god is thinking. for me, it was more of a different kind of journey. i write about having been abused physically, and not sexually, but physically at the hands of a public schoolteacher that was a british. i was getting beat pretty badly and i was thinking to myself, god knows about this.
and rest assured he does i am trying to be a good boy. years later, it was when i read dostoevsky and child was being beaten and he says, how can a good god allow this to exist? the venue began to wrestle with this whole idea, at least i did. maybe god as a creator and allows free will and maybe our faith is based on tragedies and in during these kinds of things. a you're wrestling with some of the bigger questions, and you either take a side or you don't take a side. tavis: let me start with some of the smaller questions given what you have just said. for those of you watching out, it is an oversimplification. for those the save these is the problem with people have become agnostic.
the start to over intellectual allies. if we believe that there is a god, the same got that gives you an intellect and allows the free will, to over intellectual allies to the point for you believe he doesn't exist anymore. >> he allows that in me or i'll allow it in myself. hull was like the lion and about free will, of course i believe in free will, i have no choice. i have been cerebral and intellectual in my life. how i thought, just surrender to it. maybe it is irrational, but it is a force strong revenue. there has to be that long in. unfortunately, i think of woody allen's line. the heart wants what it wants. i came to a point in my life where i don't care.
i am in different. on the kind of level, i could not find it in my heart as much as i wanted it. that is why i am envious of it. >> for those of us the belief, we believe the god is love. if you can hide it intellectually or in your humanity to surrender to love, aren't you surrendering to god? >> a lot of people's surrender to hake, nature, various kinds of things or they identify with a transcendent force which doesn't have to be god. got as being love, and the duty to god is to find the way and a half to love, is very difficult to do, sometimes.
we think of the creatures that are out there. it is a very strong demand on the human spirit that all of your fellow creatures -- i think that part of the bounty and the grace, i use these words is the ability to love and the recognition that we can find the love. whether the identifies got or not, we don't know. >> of the other question i want to get to you, the small stuff. he suggested that in your childhood, you were being physically abused and that is what makes you doubt that there is a god. >> this is what started the thinking. [unintelligible] tavis: i went through that same
vein, i had a beating that landed me in the hospital for several days. they know i did not do what i was accused of doing. they call me by name, accusing my sister and i have something that we did not do. i am rustling in that moment of my life how i got, a good god could allow this to happen. i of the journey that you speak of. why is it that we doubt got when bad things happen in the world to us and other peoples around the world. the question when the good -- when the bad stuff happens, but no one questions got when good things happen. >> somebody said to me, how are things. she said, blessed. that is a wonderful feeling. if you have that kind of gratitude, that is wonderful.
a you don't have that source, gnosticism has become a sense of skepticism and doubt. when i say, for example, i'm not sure, they think of it as callous. i think -- a think of it as cowardice. i think there is a certain amount of bravery. maybe it is something in the human fabric that thinks of tragedies. we're taught that god is good and looking out for us. if you are denounced by your minister, you will about her dog's support. tavis: the older i get, the more
i believe that skepticism is healthy, but cynicism drives me insane. i can handle having this conversation because i understand skepticism. i raise that because the thing there are a number of examples who i think are cynically attacking got. there are so many books over the last few years that have made the new york times best seller was not because they are skeptical, but because they are cynical have to go on a vicious attack against the got. how do you process those kinds of individuals and their positions? >> i went out for them in my book because not only is there certainty, and their cynicism and my skepticism. i give them a little bit of
slack because i feel like they have gone on an introductory that i don't understand. but the attack, there were too many people the top half of the conviction because of religion were caught out of a minister of behavior or whatever you want to color because of religion. it was reshaping people's lives and this is something that people find here. there were a wonderful people and it was tied in. the kind of attitude. bill maher has it, too. about dawkins and the more prominent atheists, their dismissiveness. religion has been a force for evil and inequity. think of the crusade to end 9/11.
hitler. things done in the name of religion or ideology. a hint of the civil rights movement, and gondi, martin luther king, malcolm x when he went to mecca and have enlightened and. it is a myth deal to me. you can call at wish you washy, i feel like the one to move towards faith in the found myself to skeptical to be able to do that. tavis: i have admitted publicly that i am a huge fan of your work over the years in part because you're curious in your eye. because you are well read have learned. all those things that make you the person, the certainty. what i can understand is how a guy that can be so certain in every other aspect of his life can be so uncertain about this?
how does one navigate a life? >> you're very kind and i am grateful for that. what i am particularly concerned about is beyond what is my understanding. i dunno what about in the universe for many universe is. i dunno what is in the death of the ocean. to assume that we know with dion of the dividing the louvre which is were we think of where god is. we have to form some side of code of our own, some kind of notion of what we believe. you make a leap of faith or you don't make a leap of faith. i am uncertain. that is were the envy comes in. i wish i had in my heart of the kind of faith because it gives
you a lot of strength in certain key inlays. i have the five certainty and other ways. tavis: me being a person of faith, it gives me strength in certain moments. the one of the primary reasons i am the person of faith is that in those moments that i am weak, i have to have something i can call on that is bigger than me, something that can help me. >> and i envy that. tavis: what you call upon? >> i feel helpless. you do, too, but you have something to call upon. in many cases, that is the case. i don't feel the power that summons me. i want to philippe and i am
envious of those of you that have it. tavis: unless he said something lake, he has served very -- could very firm. -- he has stood firm. stood firm in his disbelief of a higher being. those agnostic and atheist until they get in a situation where they have to call upon something more divine and they discovered god. >> i write about that. a guy that had been renouncing the and at the end, he wants his last rites said. there are people toward the end. hi dad would say -- he was a
believer of to the end. he would read the bible and said he was studying for his final exams. mortality i believe brings us closer to god. a lot of it pro has to do with the press -- in the quest for finding answers and how to explain what goes on after we live. that is something that is enviable. i don't know how is ha unfolding for me. maybe when i am lying there with some kind of cancer eating my body, i may call upon god. at this point, i am a skeptic. as much as i would love the field got, nothing gives people more -- looking at parapsychology or answers to if
we have a sixth sense for if we can be clairvoyant. all these things that we think might be possible, but we really don't know. tavis: to the point that you might be some are trying to figure this out before you make a transition to some place other than planet earth, if you were to depart this world without having figured of this house, ha how might you faint you might process that? >>-there are many people that die without figuring it out and just don't know. you can feel grateful if you have the light bulb above your head or your heart has been filled or what ever is. spiritual enlightenment as a
wonderful thing when it comes. it comes to some people when they look out at nature or when they see something beautiful or when a child is born. for all sorts of things that can transport them. tavis: is there nothing in the world, the universe itself, the sun, the moon, the stars, and nature. is there nothing that makes you believe that something bigger than us, sun deity had to create some of this? >> at this point, it is so easy to say i don't know. i hate to mention founding fathers because whenever i do, i feel like glenn back. think about somebody like benjamin franklin or thomas jefferson. they'll believe god created the heavens and earth.
it is up to us to glorify and feel his glory and all of that. i think you have to come to a reckoning and have a moment in your life where this is something you can embrace and observed. and when i go out and let the beauty of nature, i can be overwhelmed by a more just like any person that has a consummate feeling. the source, i am not sure of. i just saw a film, a beautiful film. the attempt to render creation, the beauty of the afterlife. all of these very deeply kristian kind of things. it is moving to me. i can be moved to tears but i don't feel like i can embrace it. tavis: my mother and all those
folks the on veronese as we speak, praying for you, that god will show you a lie. the light. >> i will take all the pressures i can get. tavis: it is one thing for us to pray for you and you welcome the players, but the question is whether or not they should feel sorry for you. >> if they want to, they can feel compassion for me, but it is not necessary. my father was dying and valid doing the job for the old ross perot company. there were women that want to pray for my father and i was very touched by this. atheists will say that they don't need your prayers and would have been dismissive about it. these were kind women and the
couple met and that felt attached to me and concerned for me and didn't even know how my father. this was very moving and i thing -- who knows what the power of prayer is. the of them are convincing to my skeptical mind, but they say it can move mountains. they can heal people. perhaps this may be narrow scientific, the people can throw away crutches and of wheelchair's, high-end -- and there is that. tavis: i think there is a courage to save you don't know about any particular thing. how unpopular it is, there is a certain amount of courage. what would have to happen for
you to leave? >> has is going to sound a cerebral and intellectual, but i would have to have something empirical. he makes a division between the outer empirical at the anna and her goal. it would be great if something let of my inner life that made me see god or have a moment of absolute finding faith of some kind. catalyst, butth a how they can be in of momentum that is not anticipated. i would like the extra oil empiricism. i would like to see god in some way where i can feel the presence in the sense that it is something concrete. tavis: it is the best book i have ever read on agnosticism.
it is called the spiritual and v. michael, an honor to have you. >> and thank you for your play questions, i appreciate being with you. tavis: until then, good night from loss angeles and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org tavis: to me next time with frank rich of the upcoming presidential campaign in his post at new york magazine. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference -- >> thank you. >> you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is
detroit during the great depression, the son of russian jewish immigrants. he worked in the auto plants, and resolved that he would speak for the people working in the factory. "and," he said, "sure enough, i've gone and done it." >> belle isle, 1949. we stripped in the first warm spring night and ran down into the detroit river to baptize ourselves in the brine of car parts, dead fish, stolen bicycles, melted snow. i remember going under hand in hand with a polish highschool girl i'd never seen before, and the cries our breath made caught at the same time on the cold, and rising through the layers of darkness into the final moonless atmosphere that was this world, the girl breaking the surface after me and swimming out on the starless waters towards the lights of jefferson ave. and the stacks
of the old stove factory unwinking. turning at last to see no island at all but a perfect calm dark as far as there was sight, and then a light and another riding low out ahead to bring us home, ore boats maybe, or smokers walking alone. back panting to the gray coarse beach we didn't dare fall on, the damp piles of clothes, and dressing side by side in silence to go back where we came from.